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5 Qs with Monica

Bump Envy

5 Qs with Monica
Name: Monica Ashby Neighborhood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn Occupation: Owner/Maker of Ashby Candles; stay at home Mama; forever Saturday bartender at Berry Park. Baby’s Sex: Oh BOY *We've partnered with Bravado Designs to show off some Bump Envy style. Share yours with #bumpenvy. How would you describe your pregnant style? Low maintenance, comfortable, easy. Have you had any challenges learning to dress your body during this pregnancy? Honestly, not really. I dress in super fluid, roomy linen and cotton dresses, many with no waist or empire waist, so throughout both pregnancies I haven't had to buy any actual maternity clothes, with the exception of some maternity AND nursing-friendly camis. I did get addicted to those American Apparel high waisted yoga pants during my last pregnancy 5 years ago, and I have been wearing them since. I have at least 8 pairs. I use them as tights, pajamas, pants (when paired with something that covers my backside like my long army jacket or a poncho) really, I live in them! My husband calls them my "uniform". They are like a constant gentle hug. Normally I don't like to feel my clothes on me, but I love these. No muffin top either! Woo Hoo! So far, what has surprised you most during your pregnancy? I'm surprised by how much more I can feel my body this pregnancy. My first pregnancy I was 35 and it was truly a piece of cake. A few leg cramps, perhaps a bit bitchy that first trimester, but I almost felt compelled to fake complain so I had something to talk about. I worked 5-6 days a week bartending and managing up till I was 8 and a half months pregnant, with absolutely no problems. THIS pregnancy, I was a raging bitch the first trimester, and sooooo tired. I started cramping almost immediately and it still comes and goes almost daily. I get up to pee about 5 times a night, I have wild heartburn...I mean, nothing too horrible, just by comparison I'm feeling my age. I think it could have a lot to do with having to parent a 5-year-old this time around and running all over town with him daily. There's not a lot of resting going on. What are you most looking forward to sharing with your baby? Oh man...I can't wait to look him in the eyes and kiss his sweet little lips. The happiest moment I can imagine is Alerick (my son) getting to finally hold his baby brother. He spends so much time throughout the day talking to him and giving him kisses. He always puts a blanket on my belly when i'm sitting on the couch to make the baby cozy. He's VERY ready to be a brother. Every night for over a year he wished to the stars for a baby brother or sister, so he is pretty stoked. What’s your top 5 registry essentials? A friend gave me the best words of wisdom during my last pregnancy. I was spinning on all the gear and brands and she said "listen, all you REALLY need when the baby gets here is a car seat and boobs". It's an exaggeration of course, but there's a lot of truth to it. I suppose if I had to make a registry from scratch today I'd ask for: 1. The Heidi (diaper) Bag. I had mine shipped from Israel 5 years ago, not sure if local places carry them yet but it's an awesome stylish diaper bag with snap off convertible straps that works as a purse or a backpack. I loved front carrying baby while back carrying my diaper bag/purse. Hands free! (shop similar here) 2. Bravado Designs Body Silk Seamless Nursing Cami. I started using this during pregnancy since it's nice and stretchy and covers the bump, but know I'll be continuing my daily use once baby arrives and I'm nursing. 3. Ergobaby organic carrier AND a woven wrap. I recommend going to Wild Was Mama, or your local baby gear store if you're not Brooklyn based, and trying every carrier on. The wraps too. The wraps can be a little intimidating at first but once you figure it out it's so easy, and you can put baby in there from day one. I have the Girasol woven wrap and I love it. 4. Boppy nursing pillow. I would have died of shoulder pain without this. It's so lovely for breastfeeding, for holding baby on your lap, for sticking baby in the center of (while still immobile, of course)...it got a whole lot of use. Get a couple covers so you can rotate them out and not have to do laundry all the time. 5. Sleep sheep. The travel sized one so you can stick it in the stroller, the car seat, the crib...The white noise really helped Alerick sleep wherever we were. Bars, restaurants, etc. Monica is wearing: No 6 clogs H&M maternity jeans. These are worn and torn! I got these from a friend. Apparently Lanny gave them to Katherine who gave them to Julie who gave them to me. Sisterhood of the Maternity Pants? Bravado Designs Body Silk Seamless Nursing Cami. I put this on right before the shoot and I haven't taken it off since! I seriously love this article of clothing. Paired with my high waisted leggings and an oversized button down shirt I've got a new uniform. It's great to sleep in too. Free People Poncho. I bought this for my wedding in Yosemite 3 years ago and It's one of my favorite pieces. It's the softest cotton with big chunky colorful yarn embroidered detail. It's mood changing in the best way! Photography by Belle Augusta for Well Rounded NY.

SHOP MONICA'S STYLE

Bravado Designs Body Silk Seamless Nursing Cami

No. 6 Clogs

H&M maternity jeans.

Free People Poncho

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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